AC Milan are heading into an important season and with one less leader in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, leaving a large void that Rafael Leao hopes to fill.
La Gazzetta dello Sport writes how Milan now face the first real season without Ibrahimovic in the dressing room and thus heirs are needed. Sandro Tonali was a candidate but he’s gone, while Mike Maignan and Olivier Giroud could step up.
However, Leao wants to stake his claim and over the past couple of years he has shown a growth and a maturity which suggests he is already the leader of this team.
He often talks about how he imagines Milan, how he imagines himself and what he would like for his career. He doesn’t particularly like interviews and in fact he declares himself damned shy but when he does speak he demonstrates his broad shoulders.
After the match against Barcelona, for example, he said: “The armband is an emotion I’ve been waiting for a long time. When I saw Theo leave, I told him ‘give it to me, I have to wear it’. I would like to do it in important matches too.”
It doesn’t matter to him that it wasn’t an official match, Leao knows what it means to wear the armband and that it is another step forward in his journey with the Rossoneri.
At one point Ibra had nearly given up on the winger: “I couldn’t stimulate him, if he doesn’t help himself no one can help him. Then he changed completely, he figured out what to do on his own.”
The renewal of his contract undoubtedly gave him a lot of responsibility. Months of waiting, of uncertainty, often of tension, ended with a white smoke that at a certain point had become very distant.
The management and Stefano Pioli repeated to exhaustion that Milan – at this moment in his career – were and are the best option to continue growing. That contract extension made him the highest paid player in the squad too, which is a sign of his importance.
He is the star of the team and he knows it. That’s why he speaks as a leader, as he said he feels. This year he will have number 10 on his shoulders too which he asked for, proving that Milan really do revolve around Rafa.